Originally printed in the December 2019 issue of Produce Business.
Format: Independent grocery store
Family-owned and operated since the 1980s, Manhattan Fruit Market, downstairs in Chelsea Market, was established by Lou Doherty and Irwin Cohen (the first developer of Chelsea Market). Originally, the store was located upstairs, retailing as Manhattan Fruit Exchange, to reflect the company’s wholesale roots.
Today, second-generation owner Jennifer Doherty is proud to use her own vision and her family’s sourcing connections to continue her father’s legacy; operating a 3,000 square foot grocery store that specializes in all common and exotic fruits and vegetables with deals at wholesale pricing.
Fruits and vegetables make up 70% of the extensive offering; including seasonal and not-so-common items like: Keffir limes, jackfruit, dragon fruit, Buddha’s Hand, raisins or prunes on-the-vine, whole coconuts and rambutan.
“Our philosophy is, if it grows, we got it, unless it’s not good quality, then we don’t,” notes Doherty. “We have varieties of almost every fruit or vegetable: green tomatoes, tomatillos, regular peppers, dried peppers, Persian cucumbers, tri-color cauliflower, Brussels sprouts on the vine, Italian eggplant, graffiti eggplant, Japanese eggplant… the list goes on.”
Doherty says people like the freshness too. “Every day our products are turned over and replenished with fresh,” she says. “We get deliveries six days a week. You cannot beat our quality and freshness. We are competitively priced as well. When you have those factors, I think it does wonders for the customer.”
In December, shoppers will find sweet potatoes, cranberries, pomegranates, rutabaga, turnips, all winter squash, persimmons, leeks, kale, artichokes, sunchokes, Brussels sprouts, apples and beets. Holiday season also brings photo-opportunity displays, such as various pumpkin varieties for Halloween.
Some 90% of products are sourced internationally via the Hunts Point Produce Market, in addition to a few Upstate New York farms. Doherty says every inch of the store is crammed to the max, in a good way, with “many bright, natural and beautiful colors.”
On entering, shoppers will find a row of colorful fresh juices. On the left, currently, is a wide variety of seasonal apples, and through the center are exotic fruits and vegetables. The store’s perimeter displays cases with greens and root vegetables. The center aisle is for citrus, featuring large arrangements of stacked lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges. Toward the back is the grocery section, a cheese counter and a 5-foot, fresh-cut fruit bar.
Additionally, there is a 9 foot self-serve ever-rotating hot food bar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Orders can be made online via the website and phone app too.
Since starting out at aged 14 as a bagging assistant, Doherty remains very much involved; working tirelessly to carry the same variety and specialties as her father. “Nothing makes me happier than happy customers who appreciate my store,” she enthuses, explaining that often she helps shoppers and listens to their comments. “I think customer service is a major part of the relationships we build.”
Of course, Doherty says her loyal customers are what keeps Manhattan Fruit Market alive, including local residents, workers from the offices above, and even regulars who travel daily from the Upper West Side. “As long as our fruits and veggies are fresh, they keep coming back, and I smile harder,” she says.
MANHATTAN FRUIT MARKET
448 W. 16th St., Cellar Level,
New York, NY 10011
Tel: (212) 255-2242
Hours: Mon-Fri: 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat-Sun: 8 a.m.- 8 p.m.